May 29, 2024

New cycle lane layout not safest option – City Council Audit


The new layout of Richmond's roads is not the safest design, a city council safety audit has found.

Most of Hill Street's car parks were closed in April and dedicated cycle lanes were installed as Tasman District Council sought to make cycling a more attractive option for residents.

A safety systems assessment commissioned by the council compared the previous, unaltered layout of Hill Street with several possible designs, including maintaining the 50km/h speed limit zone while adding cycle lanes and adding traffic calming measures to reduce the speed to 30km/h.

Introducing a cycle path while limiting speeds to 50km/h resulted in a score of 136, while reducing speeds to 30km/h and adding traffic calming measures resulted in a score of 43. Lower scores reflect safer road designs.

The scoring system was not linear, so a score of 136 is not necessarily about three times safer than a score of 43.

But some Hill Street residents believe the audit did not justify removing the cycleway car park, despite it being pointed out that a slower 30km/h zone would clearly be safer.

Carolyn Wolff, who carried out the audit at the request of the city council, said she wanted parking spaces reinstated within the 30km/h speed limit zone for both cyclists' safety and residents' convenience.

“Hill Street residents are being severely affected by the on-street parking ban, and are unable to gather with family and friends, hold garage sales, meetings and open houses.”

Neighbor Mark Ramsay agreed.

“I don't think disrupting traffic flow at 30 kilometres per hour would have been a big deal,” he said.

“The lack of parking seems to be a much bigger issue and I really think it's creating a safety hazard – cars are backing out onto major roads within a 50km radius.”

“Safety is one aspect among many,” a council spokesman said.

The council's transport manager, Jamie MacPherson, said councillors considered a number of factors when making their decision.

“When considering improvements, changes or any decisions on our road network, safety is one of many aspects of the road network that needs to be balanced,” he said.

“Maintaining a 50km/h speed limit on most busy urban roads and installing safe elevated crossings where needed is an important part of balancing safety and journey times.”

Not all parking on Hill Street has been removed; the section between William Street and Queen Street is being trialed as a 30km/h speed limit zone, with parking remaining. The 30km/h zone will be monitored to see if it reduces traffic speeds and increases cyclists' perceptions of safety.

Council data shows 45% of people who currently drive to work or school would like to cycle, and safer cycling would encourage more people to do so.

“Removing on-street parking has huge safety benefits for cyclists,” Mr MacPherson said.

“Building safe bike lanes will encourage people who still feel uneasy about riding on the road to choose cycling as a mode of transportation.”

He added that bicycle projects have a very high cost-benefit ratio, especially for residents' health.

“The change in road layout will take some getting used to, but the reasons for doing it remain strong.”

The Local Democracy Report is local government journalism jointly funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.


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